A Study in Karma


Annie Besant


Published in 1917


Annie Besant

1847 - 1933



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The first step is deliberately to examine what we may call our "stock in trade" ; our inborn faculties and qualities, good and bad, our powers and our weaknesses, our present opportunities, our actual environment. Our character is that which is most rapidly modifiable, and on this we should set to work,

selecting the qualities which it is desirable to strengthen, the weaknesses which form our most pressing dangers. We take them one by one, and use our thought-power in the way before described, remembering always that we must never think of the weakness, but of its corresponding power. We think that which we desire to be, and gradually, inevitably, we become it. The law cannot fail; we have only to work with it in order to succeed.


The desire-nature is similarly modified by thought, and we create the thought-forms of the opportunities we need; alert to see and to grasp a suitable opportunity, our will also fixes itself on the forms our thought creates, and thus draws them within reach, literally making and then grasping the opportunities which the karma of the past does not present to us.


Hardest of all to change is our environment, for here we are dealing with the densest form of matter, that on which our thought-force is least potent. Here our freedom is very restricted, for we are at our weakest and the past is at its strongest. Yet are we not wholly helpless, for here, either by struggling or by

yielding, we can conquer in the end. Such undesirable part of our surroundings as we can change by strenuous effort, we promptly set to work to change; that which we cannot thus change, we accept, and set ourselves to learn whatever it has to teach. When we have learnt its lesson, it will drop away from us, like an

outworn garment. We have an undesirable family; well, these are the egos we have drawn around us by our past; we fulfill every obligation cheerfully and patiently, honourably paying our debts; we acquire patience through the annoyances they inflict on us, fortitude through their daily irritations, forgiveness through their wrongs. We use them as a sculptor uses his tools, to chip off our excrescences and to smooth and polish away our roughnesses.


When their usefulness to us is over, they will be removed by circumstances, carried off elsewhere. And so with other parts of our environment, which, on the surface, are distressful; like a skillful sailor, who trims his sails to a wind he cannot change and thus forces it to carry him on his way, we use the

circumstances we cannot alter by adapting ourselves to them in such a fashion that they are compelled to help us.


Thus we are partly compelled and partly free. We must work amid and with the conditions which we have created, but we are free within them to work upon them.


We ourselves, eternal Spirits, are inherently free, but we can only work in and through the thought-nature, the desire-nature, and the physical nature, which we have created; these are our materials and our tools, and we can have none other till we make these anew.




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